(At Left Coast Crime, Parnell Hall, who was moderating one of the panels I was on, gave his panelists a homework assignment: write something in a genre other than the one in which we normally wrote. I decided to rewrite the opening of The Penguin Who Knew Too Much in a slightly less cozy vein. Unfortunately, I didn't put my draft in my carryon, and United Airlines didn't finally deliver my suitcase until the after the panel was over. So since I didn't get to present it at the convention, here it is--the opening of Penguin Noir.)
"Hey, kid! Guess what I found in your basement?"
I looked up from the Walter PK380 semi-automatic I was cleaning to see Tiny's huge frame filling the basement doorway.
"A stiff?" I meant that as a joke. Couple years ago a business rival actually tried to frame me by dumping a stiff in my basement, but after what Tiny and I did to the guy, I didn't think anyone would try it again.
"You already knew? Well, how soon will the garbage collectors get here? I need to move the penguins--we don't want them any more upset than they already are by all the blood."
He disappeared down the basement stairs without waiting for an answer. I set my gun carefully on
the desk and went to the doorway to call down after him.
"Tiny? I was joking. Did you really find a stiff in the basement? And why are there penguins there? Tiny!"
No answer. Should I go down to see what was happening, or call the garbage collectors, as Tiny called them--some guys who owed me a favor and ran a junkyard so huge and run down that it could absorb any amount of inconvenient evidence.
I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Normally counting to ten calmed me, but today it just gave me time to think about how quickly today was going south.
Of course, my day would have to get pretty bad before it hit the kind of rock bottom day the stiff in my basement was having.
Then again, the stiff probably hadn't had to deal with penguins. Nasty birds, penguins, always reeking of fish and dung. About the only smell I hated worse than penguin was the smell of blood.
And now, according to Tiny, I had both in my basement.
I tucked the Walther back in my holster before heading down to check things out.